For the few of you left, with even a passing interest in comic books, who haven’t heard - a comic book industry professional, Mark Waid, is being sued by a YouTube personality “Diversity and Comics” or, by his given name, Richard Meyers. What is occurring symbolically, however, extends beyond the goings on between plaintiff and defendant. It speaks to a shifting landscape.
To give some context to the suit, one must first understand that the relationship between professionals in the comic book industry and “Diversity and Comics” is best described as mutually antagonistic. “Diversity and Comics”, with use of industry insiders, regularly made known his dissatisfaction with the direction the industry was going. A particularly elitist cabal of raw egos within the industry, of which Mark Waid was, and is, arguably it’s most vociferous and bombastic member, took profound exception to the criticism.
Had they not, had they ignored “Diversity and Comics”, Richard Meyers’ YouTube channel would quite likely not have experienced the explosive subscriber growth that it did. Richard Meyers had struck a nerve within the industry and within fandom. Consequently, he was elevated to the defacto spokesperson of disgruntled fans everywhere. His immediate network of likeminded YouTube personalities became collectively labelled ComicsGate.
Richard Meyers has said a lot of things that people don’t like and, in my opinion, has occasionally crossed the line and the cabal has attempted to define him by his most extreme statements and, through association, the entire population of fandom that also doesn’t like that the comic book industry is headed away from providing entertainment and toward pontification.
Leveraging his newfound popularity and perhaps looking to educate the cabal on what a comic book should be, Richard Meyers crowdfunded his own book, which he took to Antarctic Press with whom he contracted a distribution deal. In response, Mark Waid publicly announced that he was going to make some phone calls and ensure that Antarctic Press knew exactly the kind of person they were dealing with and then went on to brag about his actions, as any successful bully, or a narcissist would, when Antarctic Press caved. Richard Meyers went on to self-publish and distribute his book
Where Are We Now:
What Mark Waid did is definitely censorship but it is also potentially illegal. It’s called tortious interference.
Richard Meyers decided to sue Mark Waid and started a GoFundMe campaign – which, at the time of this blog post, was doing very well thanks in no small part to a handful of 5 figure donations.
Mark Waid did likewise. Since the man is reputed to be fairly well-off, the crowdfunding campaign is likely PR strategy as well as giving notice to the cabal that it is time to circle the wagons. Of interest, on Mark Waid’s GoFundMe landing page, there is a link to an article at “Bleeding Cool”, which espouses how bad the ComicsGate folks are. Why this is interesting is that a year ago Mr. Waid threatened to punch a “Bleeding Cool” staff writer, Jude Terror, in the face. And one of the reasons why this is interesting is that the extent of Mark Waid’s hair-trigger temper is coming under increasing scrutiny with each passing day as trial awaits - giving at least some insight as to what got him into this predicament in the first place.
Delving Into The Contentious Issue Of Censorship:
From the start, this has been about much more than merely Mark Waid versus “Diversity and Comics”. This is the comic book industry versus ComicsGate. It is about who really has the fans best interest at heart. Specifically, who wants to proselytize at their expense versus who simply wants to see them entertained.
Mark Waid’s censorship is rooted, in part, in ideological alignment. Agree, or perish. He behaves as if, by divine right, the cabal have absolute dominion over what gets published and what does not. His coercion of Antarctic Press, though a spiteful act of a small man, demonstrates that he is not entirely wrong in that belief. If it is possible to put a good spin on this totalitarianism, it is that perhaps it comes from a place of good, but greatly misguided, intentions. Though, I suspect not. I suspect it comes from the fearful tantrum of an inner child.
The comics book industry is in decline. For quite a while now fans have been proclaiming to deaf ears that it is not the medium but rather the message which is the problem. Comics books have become more about pushing ideology than about telling stories. Yet, fans, inconveniently, just want stories and it is in the independent market where their hope now resides. Every year it is getting easier for a small independent to produce, market, and distribute their completely original stories; genuine stories, not propaganda leaflets. “Diversity and Comics”’ ground up, grass roots, success, is an in-your-face reminder of that fact; an afront made all the more biting for the cabal because it is essentially a self-inflicted injury. As well, there might be some envy. I imagine the prospect of starting from nothing would be terrifying to many of those who have inherited well established IP. Whether this group of industry professionals are self-aware enough to label the motivation behind their censorship as such, I suspect that there is an awakening fear within them; the fear of irrelevance.